Monday, 14 July 2014

Mid-July Reads: Green Books

In general I do one post at the end of the month mini-reviewing books I've read that month, but because it is the SUMMER HOLIDAYS (can I have a heck yes!) I am now reading far more and frankly the thought of a single post reviewing twelve books fills me with fear ... so now for the mid-month book post! So far this month I have, unintentionally, read exclusively green books. The aesthetic appeal of this makes me happy.

Very, very happy.

What I've Got My Nose InFranny and Zooey by JD Salinger

A short story, Franny, and a novella, Zooey, published respectively in 1957 and 59. The two eponymous characters of these stories are the youngest siblings of a family. Both stories take place in innocuous settings - the first a lunch date between Franny and her boyfriend, the second a morning for Zooey in the family home - but, beneath the dialogue and family relations, there is an undercurrent of disillusionment as both young adults rail against the flaws they see in the education system and society around them, as well as the people that inhabit them.

This was the first Salinger I've read - no, I've not read The Catcher in the Rye, go on, shoot me - so I had no idea what I was about to read when I began it. What impressions do I have of these stories? Honestly, my foremost thoughts are that they are a little weird. Beautifully written, yes, with great dialogue and astute social observations. Interesting as social commentary. But not much seemed to happen in either of them - they were musings, not tales with plot twists and action and a beginning, middle, and end. Because of this I didn't find them that satisfying, if you know what I mean - but I would be wrong to say I didn't enjoy this book. I feel like I would have "got" it a bit more, though, if I'd studied it at school with a teacher who could help to pick out the themes and symbolism etc. as it gave me the feeling there was more under the surface that I wasn't quite getting. 

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
[doesn't look strictly green in this picture but it is in real life, I swear]

Twins Cath and Wren Avery are off to university, and for the first time in their life it seems there'll be apart - because whilst Cath would love to keep things the same, from sharing a room as they've always done to the fanfiction they write together, Wren wants to go out, meet people and put her life as a "fangirl twin" behind her. 

So. Fangirl. This book was pretty adorable as well as utterly addictive, and I found Cath to be a very relatable MC. However, it fell well above my sex-and-swearing threshold and did at times make me quite uncomfortable. On reflection, if I'd been aware of some of the content I definitely wouldn't have chosen this book. However I thought it was very well-written, and I was especially compelled by Rowell's portrayal of the relationships between the twins and their father.

The New Policeman by Kate Thompson

Set in modern-day Ireland, JJ Liddy lives in a society where music runs in his veins, entwined with the rich folklore, myths and stories of the fairy folk that are a backdrop to his country. But life on his family farm cannot be perfect as JJ falls victim to the vicious rumours about his past; and as the family experience the nationwide discomfort as they feel that time is running from them and spinning their lives away.

I really enjoyed this book. It was a really a children's book, but to quote the indispensable CS Lewis, “A children's story that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good children's story in the slightest.” I love mythology/fairytales and general fantasy so the plot was write up my street, and I really loved the character of Larry O'Dwyer - the new policeman. ONE THING: the family, specifically the mother's grief when JJ is missing is not convincing. Loss/death in books is only convincing when you see it in the other characters. But apart from that, this was a great book with a satisfying plot that I would recommend.

Wild Swans by Jung Chang

Wild Swans was without doubt the most profoundly affecting book I've read in a long time. Reaching back to the beginning of the twentieth century it tells the story of Chinese author Jung Chang's grandmother, the foot-bound concubine of a warlord; her mother, a Communist official who put everything second to the Party she believed in before her torture and denunciation; and then Chang's own autobiography as a schoolgirl growing up in Mao's China.

Before reading this, I knew very little about Communist China. Was it as bad as people said, I wondered, or was it worse? Was it really tantamount to the nightmare society of Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four? After reading Wild Swans, I know that it was worse; both a family memoir and a social history this book tells the story of a nation utterly brainwashed. As the book began with a descriptions of the agonies of bound feet, Ancient China's custom of keeping a girl's feet from growing to over five inches long, my stomach turned - but even this barbaric cruelty paled in comparison to what was to come. I was stunned and disbelieving as I read about the torture and the evil, but even more so by the minds of the people involved - Jung Chang herself says that at the age of thirteen, she would gladly have died for her leader, and this terrifying revelation shocked me to the core. I read of the "quota" systems in which officials were told that they must root out a specific number of "dangerous capitalists" from their departments, meaning that when not enough could be found friends, neighbours and colleagues were turned over to the authorities. I read about the Cultural Revolution in which the books, architecture and heritage of China's thousand-year dynasties were burned and destroyed, as children were turned on their teachers to beat and torture them and as the difference between favour and ruin could be one word, one look, one misperception. Reading this book gave me an incredible gratitude for the democracy in which I am blessed to live,  as well as chilling me with an insight into the extreme evil of which humans are capable, and I think it is a very important true story that should be read by everyone.

Anne of Green Gables by LM Montgomery

Marilla and Matthew Cuthbert, reserved middle-aged spinster and bachelor siblings, attempt to hire a boy to help on their farm - and so when a mix-up sends them loquacious, redheaded orphan Anne, they are surprised to say the least. But Anne, with her charm and chatter and open nature, somehow is allowed to stay, and so begins life at Green Gables for a girl prone to getting into all sorts of scrapes with her vivid imagination and wild heart.

A summer re-read. I. Love. This. Book. It is so beautifully written and lovely and adorable and just ugh, there aren't even words to express. Anne is the most loveable main character with her dreams and fancies, and the friendship between her and Diana is, in my opinion, one of the very best-written friendships around. I absolutely love this book. And I may also be helplessly in love with Gilbert Blythe. Overall, you should read it.

'... Then he Ate My Boy Entrancers.' by Louise Rennison

Georgia Nicolson series: hilarious. Brilliant. Utterly insane. Not to mention surprisingly touching .... this is book six, so I don't have much to say that won't give my spoilers, but basically the series is the diary of Georgia, a teenage girl in England, and her general life: friends, schools, boys. If you are a highbrow currently turning up your nose ... they are amazing. Not trashy and rubbish as that description may make them seem. I, too, as a book snob, was unsure before reading .... but give it a go.

PS the title refers to a cat eating false eyelashes. Don't worry bloglets. Nothing to tarnish your innocence on this blog. 

That's all from me today. What have you read so far this July? Are you doing any summer rereads, or reading series? Let me know! :D
Emily x 


  1. I love Goodreads, because I can see the covers of all the books I've read recently, side-by-side. It's funny how the colors sometimes coincide. I've read a lot of red and purple books recently. And before that, blue seemed to be quite common.

    1. Same. I love seeing all these five together side by side in their greenness!! :L

  2. Ha! How did you manage to read exclusively green books so far this month?? That's funny.

    Totally loved Fangirl and was definitely enamoured with Rainbow's dialogue characters and character relationships, too! I get the impression that Rainbow's books have more adult content in general, which I'm not big on either, but I did appreciate her realistic portrayal of new adults.

    OMG can you believe that I only very recently read Anne of Green Gables?? And YES I completely fell in love with it too!! I want ever so much to be bosom friends with Anne Shirley!! Words cannot express how much I love that girl and her imagination and her earnestness. I can only hope that she would think me a kindred spirit in turn. It's become an insta-favourite of mine, just like that! And it has convinced me that I MUST visit Prince Edward Island in my lifetime.

  3. Seriously it pleases me far more than it should!!

    I did enjoy Fangirl ... but I prefer something more like Anne of Green Gables!! :L

    I would love to be bosom friends with her too! I love her and Diana so much <3 And I love her imagination too, and all her one-sided conversations with Matthew :') I also totally agree that I would LOVE to visit the Island, Montogomery's descriptions are so gorgeous ...

  4. I read Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell, and I agree with your opinions on the content almost exactly (even though it's a different book). Confused yet? ;P
    What I was trying to say was that Eleanor and Park was adorable, but disappointing in the scandalous/swearing ways.

    But Anne of Green Gables?? LOVE LOVE LOVE! My grandma used to read that to me while we were doing sewing projects together and it's been one of my all-time favorites ever since! Have you seen the movies? They're great. And Gilbert Blythe is pretty handsome in there too :)

    1. Uh-oh! I was planning to read that one .... should I? Should I not? :/ :/ :/

      YES YES YES! I have seen the first one, not any of the others I think. I can't remember what he looks like ... to Google images!!

  5. FANGIRL!! Ahh! I love that book! :D
    I had read Eleanor & Park just before Fangirl and was utterly disappointed. It was so predictable and overall just meh. I felt like I was reading Jacquline Wilson again - you know- with all the family problems. I think that's why I like Fangirl so much. I'v read plenty of incredibly shocking adult books so Fangirl is nothing compared to other adult books.

    And Anne of green Gables has been on my to read list for AGES!
    Marian ^_^

    1. Hmm OK ... in that case, Eleanor & Park is OFF THE LIST because frankly, there is no time in this world to read books that aren't AMAZING.

      YOU NEED TO READ IT!!!! :O :D


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